Dogs have long been considered man's best friend, but their characteristics of loyalty and protectiveness have also earned them the lesser known title of "cheetah's best friend." That's right; dogs are being used more and more frequently to assist in conservation efforts to preserve the endangered cheetah in captivity.
Since the 1980s, zoos have assigned companion dogs to cheetahs that are involved in the zoo's captive breeding program.
When paired up the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and models its behavior and over time adopts the dogs happy-go-lucky vibe. It's then hoped that they will feel more relaxed and more likely to reproduce.
The primary goal of comforting cheetahs through this unusual partnership is to make them at ease in their captive environment so that they will be able to breed with other cheetahs
Shyness and anxiety don't bode well for a breeding program, so the inter-species friendships that the cheetahs are able to form with dogs can actually benefit the long-term survival of this rare cat.
The dogs enlisted by the zoos are typically rescued from shelters, giving these homeless canines a new purpose in life.
Cheetah cubs are paired with canine companions at about 3 or 4 months of age.
They first meet on opposite sides of a fence with a keeper walking the dog on a leash. If all goes well, the two animals are able to meet for their first "play date," although both are kept on leashes initially for safety.
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